Book Review: 30 Years in a White Haze

Title: 30 Years in a White Haze: Dan Egan’s Story of Worldwide Adventure and the Evolution of Extreme Skiing

Authors: Dan Egan and Eric Wilbur; Forward by Tony Horton

Difficulty: 386 pages. Quick and fun read. Excellent illustrations that break up well-paced chapters. The storytelling moves and bounces in a fun and satisfying way–like a good mogul run.

Plot: As a memoir, 30 Years in a White Haze covers a lot of territory.   The episode of Dan surviving a snowstorm atop Mount Elbrus in 1991 Russia is a classic man versus nature story and the defining point of Dan’s life. (You can read an excerpt here.)

Signature themes: The history and development of extreme skiing as a creative, technical, business, and spiritual pursuit. 

Dan is a lifelong learner with a penchant for weaving historical, interpersonal, and spiritual themes into his life story.

Topics covered: 

  • Skiing, mountaineering, filmmaking, and a little bit of sailing
  • Entrepreneurship (esp. marketing and distribution in pre-digital era)
  • Education and teaching
  • Family and business relationships
  • Cultural and geopolitical aspects of the 1980s and 1990s

Full disclosure: I’ve known the author Dan Egan long before he became known as an extreme-ski pioneer. We first met 40 years ago when my older brother married his older sister on an April day in South Boston. Even then, Dan was a force to behold–an extremely cool, athletic, wild adventure boy.  

Dan and John Egan (Dan Egan)

Reading 30 Years in a White Haze, I was once again that young flatland girl bedazzled by the big life Dan lives. Dan is a lot of things–a geo-political adventurer, sports journalist, entrepreneur, and teacher. But most of all, Dan is a friend, a family man, and an extremely good storyteller. 

I read 30 Years while on an extended road trip, day-hiking through southern Utah. Two ideas kept recurring to me between reading sessions.  

First, as a hiker, I’m game for a little rock-scrambling and a long walk, but I never put myself in a situation that requires dexterity or strength. My steps are sure and steady and not at all graceful. Contrast that to the sheer athleticism of Dan and his brother John (3.5 min Hall of Fame Tribute video.) 

Second, I have a new appreciation for extreme skiing as a creative outlet. This includes on-the-slope performances as well as the production and editing of ski films. Here’s a video clip of Dan describing ski as “flow”–a notion touched on throughout the book.

Dan Egan on skiing as flow

I’m a big fan of biographies and memoirs. But a lot of time, I’ll stop reading a book a third of the way through. It’s as though once they get past the growing-up years, the writer stops talking about personal growth and their story becomes a litany of things they did and the events that happened to them.   

Fortunately, Dan is a lifelong learner with a penchant for weaving historical, interpersonal, and spiritual themes into his life story.  30 Years in a White Haze is a great read, from cover to cover.

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